The group of citizens pushing for a moratorium on development in the gateway area of the Town of New Paltz near the Thruway have seen progress in the form of an ad-hoc committee which presented favorable findings at last week’s Town Board meeting, but not all board members are convinced that such a move is a wise one. Council members Jeff Logan and Marty Irwin in particular are concerned that this campaign is simply a repackaging of opposition to the CVS project, and that passing a moratorium will result in swift litigation. While members of the moratorium study committee, particularly chair Susan Blickstein, tried to assure board members during that presentation that any such suit would be difficult to win if the moratorium is strongly worded, it would still have to be defended at a cost in taxpayer dollars.
The process of selecting the members of the moratorium study committee was also called into question. Other than Blickstein, each currently serves on another town committee, and Irwin said he’d had the impression that those committees had selected representatives, which was not actually the case. Chairs were asked to make recommendations, leading Logan and Irwin to the conclusion that they may have been self-selected from people predisposed against CVS.
Even without litigation, the town has limited funds. Just $25,000 was budgeted for the comprehensive master plan this year, although Supervisor Neil Bettez is now of the understanding the town’s share could be four times that amount. The moratorium itself could easily cost upwards of $25,000, and although Blickstein did note at the earlier meeting it could result in future savings on litigation costs resulting from poor zoning, board members must balance current dollars against any such theoretical savings. A compromise which Irwin suggested was to focus on the master plan, but instruct whichever consultant is hired to prioritize the gateway area.
Even if a moratorium is passed, he and Logan were of the opinion that current applications must be exempted to avoid litigation which the town coffers could ill afford. Irwin said that excluding other properties would make it a moratorium entirely on CVS, and Logan said that exempting CVS would be essential.
Deputy Supervisor Dan Torres didn’t think it was all about the drugstore. “CVS was the catalyst to discuss the gateway, but it’s one element of a larger picture,” he said.
“It’s not about being anti-development,” pointed out Julie Seyfert-Lillis. “It’s about being sensitive to new zoning tools.”
While Seyfert-Lillis urged her colleagues to hire an attorney to draft a moratorium and then decide, Torres recommended Irwin bring his ideas to Blickstein, as well as William Murray, who is chairing the committee that’s working on the joint town-village master plan.
Bettez said that he would study the budget and report back with recommendations on how to pay for a moratorium.